Trump's 9/11 narrative: memory and hyperbole, 15 years later

AP News
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Posted: Apr 20, 2016 1:58 PM
Trump's 9/11 narrative: memory and hyperbole, 15 years later

NEW YORK (AP) — Every American of a certain age has a 9/11 story — vivid memories of where they were, what they saw, how they felt on that awful day.

Donald Trump is one of them.

And for New Yorkers like him, 9/11 melds first-hand experience with what they felt in their guts, what they saw on television and what was playing out in the lives of friends and loved ones in a city under siege.

Trump often invokes his 9/11 memories to highlight the bravery shown on that day and how his home town pulled together in a time of crisis. The billionaire businessman, whose holdings on 9/11 included some 20 buildings in Manhattan, also is prone to embellishment — what he referred to in one of his books as "truthful hyperbole."

In the case of 9/11, Trump's line between memory and hyperbole appears to be blurry. A look at some of his recent comments about the attacks:

"PEOPLE WERE CHEERING"

"I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering." — Trump, at a November rally in Birmingham, Alabama. He added in a televised interview: "It did happen. I saw it. It was on television. I saw it."

Footage of Muslims in Middle Eastern countries cheering news of the attacks was broadcast on television in the days following Sept. 11. There is no evidence in news archives of mass celebrations by Muslims in Jersey City, across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan with clear views of the World Trade Center site. Some reports and rumors did surface of Muslims celebrating in Paterson, New Jersey, but none was substantiated.

"I HELPED"

"Everyone who helped clear the rubble. And I was there, and I watched, and I helped a little bit. But I want to tell you: Those people were amazing. Clearing the rubble. Trying to find additional lives. You didn't know what was going to come down on all of us and they handled it." — Trump, at a rally Monday in Buffalo, New York.

It's not clear how Trump helped. His campaign didn't respond to questions about what he did. In an interview with a German news outlet two days after the attacks, Trump said he had been to Ground Zero and had "a lot of men down here, right now. We have over 100 and we have about 125 coming. So we'll have a couple of hundred people down here. And they are very brave and what they're doing is amazing. And we'll be involved in some form in helping to reconstruct."

"I WATCHED AS PEOPLE JUMPED"

"I have a window in my apartment that specifically was aimed at the World Trade Center because of the beauty of the whole downtown Manhattan and I watched as people jumped. And I watched the second plane come in. Many people jumped and I witnessed it, I watched that." — Trump, during a November rally in Columbus, Ohio.

Trump's apartment in midtown Manhattan is roughly four miles from the World Trade Center site. He has not explained what he could see from that distance. Some images of people jumping were captured on live television.

"I LOST HUNDREDS OF FRIENDS"

TRUMP: "I lost hundreds of friends. The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush. He kept us safe? That is not safe." — Trump, during a GOP debate in February.

Trump hasn't provided a list of those he knew who perished. He has mentioned knowing Friar Mychael Judge, a Catholic priest who died while serving as chaplain to the city's fire department.

"I WAS DOWN THERE"

TRUMP: "I was down there and I watched our police and our firemen down on 7/11, down at the World Trade Center right after it came down. And I saw the greatest people I've ever seen in action. I saw the bravest people I've ever seen, including the construction workers, including every person down there. That's what New York values are about." — Trump, at a rally this week in Buffalo, New York.

Trump's reference to "7/11" was a slip of the lip. News accounts from days just after 9/11 include references to Trump giving high-fives to police officers and volunteers on their way to the World Trade Center site. "I have a lot of men working down here. I want to make sure they're OK," he said. Trump said his employers were cleaning and digging out, but declined to say where they were working.

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Benac reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report from New York.